On May 11, Stony Brook University announced a major new initiative funded by the Simons Foundation, and its sister foundation, Simons Foundation International, to vastly bolster and improve the pathway to STEM careers for underrepresented students at the university. With the Simons Foundation’s $56.6 million gift, the Stony Brook Simons STEM Scholars Program will provide scholarships, housing and stipends to 50 new students each year in the STEM fields.
“We could not be more excited and grateful to enter this new partnership with the Simons Foundation. The Stony Brook Simons STEM Scholars Program will allow young people to reach their potential as they bring new, much-needed diversity of perspective to science and innovation,” says Stony Brook University president Maurie McInnis. “At any given time, we will have 200 future STEM leaders on our campus, forging their way in the STEM fields and setting the stage for future generations of students to follow in their footsteps. I cannot wait to welcome our first cohort to Stony Brook in 2023.”
“We need scientists and mathematicians who are reflective of our diverse world, and the scientific and educational communities must work together to find, train, and support underrepresented scientists and mathematicians. That’s why the foundation is making its largest investment yet in diversity through the Stony Brook Simons STEM Scholars Program. Stony Brook University has shown a real commitment already to access and opportunity. They’re our ideal partners in this,” says Simons Foundation president David Spergel.
“We’re proud to see the foundation taking steps to increase diversity in STEM fields. The support network, tight-knit community, and sense of belonging that students will find in this program will be life-changing. We’re incredibly proud to be part of a program like this, with positive implications not just for Stony Brook, but for New York State and the broader scientific and mathematical communities,” say Jim and Marilyn Simons, co-founders and co-chairs of the Simons Foundation.
Launching in Fall 2023, the Stony Brook Simons STEM Scholars Program will welcome 50 students each year, with support including:
- Dedicated on-campus housing, where for the first two years of the program, students will live together in an environment that fosters collaboration and support;
- Internship and research opportunities and stipends, enabling students to pursue extracurricular learning experiences to supplement their STEM coursework and bolster their graduate school applications;
- A Summer Bridge Program for incoming freshmen, where students will acclimate to Stony Brook and become part of the Stony Brook Simons STEM Scholar community before formal coursework begins, meet the mentors and advisors who will support and guide them and become acquainted with their peers
In addition, Stony Brook Simons STEM Scholars students will receive:
- Four years of scholarship support that will fully cover the educational costs for each and every student in the program
- Academic and career advising
- Peer and faculty mentoring
- Community-building activities
- Networking opportunities and support
- Stipends for program-related travel and study abroad opportunities
- Alumni support and outreach
- Access to off-campus learning and research opportunities at state-of-the-art research facilities Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Brookhaven National Laboratory (a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory), both close partners of Stony Brook
“The power of this gift is that it is not dedicated to existing programmatic or budget needs; rather, it will exclusively support hundreds of Stony Brook Simons STEM Scholars students,” says Justin Fincher, Stony Brook University Vice President for Advancement. “We are incredibly fortunate to have such a generous philanthropic partner in the Simons Foundation that understands the strength of that kind of support and is deeply committed to building this program alongside our team.”
SUNY Board Trustee Cary F. Staller says, “We are extremely grateful to Simons Foundation President David Spergel for this extraordinary partnership with Stony Brook University. President Spergel’s collaboration with Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis will establish a program to educate underrepresented scientists and mathematicians that will set a new standard of excellence and resonate throughout higher education.”
There is a major need for programs like the Stony Brook Simons STEM Scholars Program to address the lack of diversity in STEM fields. STEM careers have seen a 79 percent growth in employment in the past 30 years, making STEM one of the fastest growing segments of the U.S. workforce. Yet Black and Hispanic workers only make up 17 percent of the U.S. STEM workforce, compared to 28 percent of the total workforce. Only 12 percent of full-time faculty at PhD-granting institutions are Black or Hispanic, a disparity that also exists in STEM higher education programs.
Underrepresented college and university students are much more likely to switch from a STEM major to another course of study than their peers. Forty percent of Black STEM students switch their major during their undergraduate years, compared to 29 percent of white STEM students, and Black STEM students are also twice as likely as their white peers to leave college without a degree. Just 7 percent of all STEM Bachelor’s degrees were awarded to Black students in 2018.
This $56.6 million gift is the Simons Foundation’s largest gift under new president David Spergel’s leadership, building on the foundation’s commitment to improving diversity in STEM education and the STEM workforce.
Since 2004, the foundation has given more than $200 million to Math for America, a nonprofit organization that builds communities of accomplished math and science teachers. Its New York City fellowship program represents nearly 10 percent of the city’s STEM teaching population. The organization had its most diverse incoming cohort in history in 2021 with more than 50 percent teachers of color. The foundation also made a $4 million gift to CUNY Graduate Center to diversify astrophysics education.
The Stony Brook Simons STEM Scholars program is modeled after the renowned University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s (UMBC) Meyerhoff Scholars Program. For more information about the Stony Brook Simons STEM Scholars Program, visit www.stonybrook.edu/simonsscholars.